Saturday, March 23, 2024

Replay Review: Far Cry 2 [2008]

Following on from my 2018 replay of the classic Far Cry, and as this very day is the 20th Anniversary of the franchise I felt it was time to investigate the next title in the franchise and experience the dangerous African plains of Far Cry 2. The original game was German developer Crytek's first game and one of the first FPS to evoke a sense of freedom by breaking out of the linear "corridor" gameplay of its genre predecessors. It used their in-house CryEngine and was published by Ubisoft. After Crytek signed a deal with Electronic Arts to produce a new CryEngine title (the infamous Crysis) Ubisoft struck a deal with Crytek to purchase the Far Cry IP, allowing their Ubisoft Montreal studio to create further Far Cry games using CryEngine technology. Far Cry 2 was the first of these.

Ubisoft's goal was to expand what had been done with the original game in both scope and scale, but not not to emulate the setting or tone established with the original which had various fantastical or sci-fi elements. Instead they decided to pursue a more grounded, realistic route and set the game in the very real-world premise of a diplomatically nameless African country where the only enemies were human beings from both sides of a brutal civil war. Ubisoft even eschewed their Tom Clancy franchise technical gadgetry here to evoke what little hope of survival someone had in this environment and while that didn't enthuse some people, it did earn the respect of others. Nevertheless the game was a success with over 2.9 million units sold in 3 weeks.

Playing Far Cry 2 again brought back memories of experiencing it for the first time 15 years ago. Playing it on hardware generations ahead of what I had back then reminded me that it and Crysis, it's contemporary, had some pretty hefty recommended requirements for its day like 2GB RAM, a Core 2 processor and a 512MB GPU! With all the graphical options turned up to maximum it's still a pretty good looking game for its age. Of particular note is spreading of fire, the lush jungle foliage, dust trails from your vehicle, mirage shimmer from overheated weapons, effects that were in their early days were beautifully realised in the Dunia engine, a version of the CryEngine that was mostly rebuilt for the game.

My original Far Cry 2 review published here in October 2009 was mostly story about a one-hour session in the game that isn't even part of the 'main story'. The best part of Far Cry 2 was the randomness of unscripted events or encounters and was not as prevalent then as it is today. Revisiting the game and seeing these encounters again doesn't obviously evoke the same awe that it did, but I do remember this game was one of the places where the modern versions of today's open world mechanics were first realised and for that it deserves acknowledgement.


The very light plot involves you as a mercenary sent to kill a notorious arms dealer called "The Jackal" who seems to be arming both sides of the civil war. You do this by gaining the support and trust of the warring factions by doing some of their dirty work. You are assisted by some 'friendly' NPCs with motives of their own who give you objectives that are somewhat aligned with your main objectives. Alternatively at any point you can pursue missions that provide medicine for your crippling malaria affliction or perform raids for the arms dealers to improve your weapons and skills. If the original Far Cry took influence from The Island of Dr. Moreau, then this takes it's cues from Apocalypse Now and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. There are no heroes here, and don't count on a happy or even a good ending for anyone.

The serious and somewhat bleak tone is only the setting in which the tale is told. The gameplay and action itself was remarkable for it's time and is still in essence of what Far Cry is today. The African landscape is as beautifully realised as it could have been in 2008. The open world areas cover a frankly huge 50sq KM necessitating vehicular transport for the most part - and there are a plethora of vehicles from ATVs to armed assault wagons and gunboats to operate. As mentioned, there's not a lot of gadgets but you do get a GPS device and a map to aid in navigation to identify where your objectives are.

In true Ubisoft fashion the entire world is against you, and tries to shoot or kill you on sight. Despite being in Africa, there are no wild animals in this region so you're safe in that regard (the era of the deadly honey-badger was not yet upon us) but everyone is armed and angry and you're perceived as a threat, so expect bullets to be flying at you as soon as the opening cutscenes end. You have a huge array of weapons and equipment to chose from and can carry three weapons in addition to your trusty machete with some grenades and Molotov cocktails. Missions involve storming or infiltrating encampments. You can adopt a frontal assault, or try a stealthy approach, there are even different  options within these approaches to complete a mission in a true deviation from a linear shooter.

Final Verdict: Ubisoft Montreal achieved its goals with its first Far Cry game and it was the true foundation for a franchise that still exists today with lush and interesting open worlds, unscripted encounters, charismatic antagonists and an array of weapons and tools to complete your objectives in more than one linear way. While Far Cry 2 itself may not be popular enough to require a remake, I hope it remains available and working for all users for years to come, with or without some light remastering.

Technicals: Approx 30 hours via Ubisoft Connect on Windows 11 at maximum graphical settings with a 4070Ti at 3440x1440 @ 60FPS

Bugs: Animations are broken on high refresh rate (175Hrz), FPS had to be capped to 60 to fix. One instance of an NPC stuck inside a rock.

Availability: Far Cry 2 is available from Steam, GOG and the Ubisoft Store for €9.99, but is frequently sold for €3 or under. Review copy purchased for €3.33 in Nov 2017

Far Cry series (PC releases only)

  • Far Cry (2004)
  • Far Cry 2 (2008)
  • Far Cry 3 (2012)
  • Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (2013)
  • Far Cry 4 (2014)
  • Far Cry: Primal (2016)
  • Far Cry 5 (2018)
  • Far Cry: New Dawn (2019)
  • Far Cry 6 (2021)

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